PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland City Council voted down Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed ordinance that would have allowed him to determine when, where and how long protests could take place within the city.
The proposed ordinance failed by a 3-2 vote. It would have given Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner, the power to restrict how many people could participate in demonstrations.
“While I am disappointed that City Council did not pass our Protest Safety Ordinance, I am encouraged that this has sparked a necessary and hard look at protest safety in our city. I want to thank our vocal critics, who made us better - through the engagement of rigorous debate," Wheeler said in a statement.
"Our administration will continue to look for ways to prevent protest violence, while supporting and upholding the First Amendment," he said.
Portland City Commissioners Nick Fish, Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz voted against the ordinance. Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Dan Saltzman voted for it.
“The community must be engaged and listened to," said Fritz. "The ordinance should not be the starting point for these conversations.”
The goal, according to the mayor’s office, was to prevent violent clashes between protesters, which Portland has seen several times in recent months. On Oct. 13, dozens of right-wing Patriot Prayer members brawled with left-wing counter-protesters in downtown Portland. Following the violent clash, from which no arrests were made, Wheeler called for a new ordinance restricting future protests.
The mayor’s office said the ordinance would uphold protesters’ First Amendment rights while keeping the community safe. But activists, including the ACLU of Oregon, raised concerns about restricting protests and the broad authority the ordinance would give the mayor.
Police Chief Danielle Outlaw testified in favor of the proposed law. She said overtime for police staffing for violent protests has cost taxpayers $444,000 so far in 2018.
The ACLU of Oregon, CAIR Oregon, the Oregon Justice Resource Center and the Western States Center released the following statement after the vote:
“Today's Council decision to reject the ordinance is a call to action for community leaders and civil rights advocates to work with City leadership to build effective and constitutionally sound solutions to counter bigotry, political violence, and threats to democracy in Portland. We agree with the Mayor that violence in our streets is a problem needing urgent action – we just don’t agree that the ordinance he proposed would have worked. We advocate for an alternative approach. Effectively addressing the rise of the alt-right in our city will require nuanced and varied strategies. We look forward to working with City and community leaders on a path forward: this threat is far too significant for those who want to combat it to stay divided.”